Style Curious

19/08/2009

Curiously unconventional fashion designer, Christa Davis



Christa Davis studied fine art and sculpture at what was then Newcastle Polytechnic (now the University of Northumbria). During this period, the staff were often on strike and Christa spent quite a lot of time in the fashion department instead, printing and dyeing fabrics. Her mother made all Christa's clothes and she, in turn, learned to “appropriate clothes, chopping up old vintage dresses to create a new look”. She grew up in London and, as a teenager, loved dressing up to attend punk and new romantic gigs, or to go out clubbing. The thing she enjoyed most was her trip to the local charity shop to buy something cheap to re-fashion into an amazing outfit for the evening.




During her time in Newcastle, Christa collected some beautiful antique furniture, which, on her return to London, she took to Portobello Road to try to sell. She ended up running a stall there. In those days, “stylists flocked to the market and business was very good.” People always commented on Christa’s clothes and asked her where she got them from and she was eventually motivated to set up her own print studio and start making clothes.





By the time I first met Christa - in the mid 1990s - she was based at Westbourne Studios creating her own range of hand-dyed clothing and experimenting with colour combinations and ideas that were way ahead of their time. She gained something of a cult following from the West London creative set, selling her unique handmade designs directly from her studio and from a couple of niche boutiques, including my own Fashion Gallery, where her silk opera dresses, frill skirts, vest tops and recycled cashmere cardies sold like hot cakes.




Due to the enormous demand for her clothing, there was a point at which Christa felt she should try to go more commercial. She opened a shop in All Saints Road and began to fulfill huge orders from the likes of Saks 5th Avenue. However, Christa found that working in this way stifled her creativity. She says she has now ‘gone back to her underground roots’. She likes to “remain underground and small”, selling only from her studio in deepest East London, and now online, via ShopCurious.





Christa’s ideal customer is someone who’s prepared to “look for something different rather than settle for what is placed in front of them.” She has many loyal customers and her prices are kept to sensible levels. She says a lot of people probably wouldn’t like her clothing because they don’t consider it to be a “label worth wearing”, but it’s not about snobbery, more to do with individual style and ethical values.




The inspiration for Christa’s designs comes from a variety of sources, including the vintage fabrics and colours she works with. She loves to experiment with different colour tones and combinations, as well as vintage ideas and themes such as nature. A lot of her pieces are bias cut, a method developed during the 1930s, and later employed to ensure that every scrap of fabric was used at a time when resources were limited. She also enjoys working with reconditioned cashmere, but has recently found that some of her favourite fabrics such as vintage florals are becoming prohibitively expensive due to the increased demand for them.



Christa loves to work with ideas that others haven’t thought of and with scraps of fabric discarded by others.  She likes to create value and breathe new life into fabrics by re-using them. She claims that her most creative ideas have come out of frustration – when she  “only had a couple of quid to make something with and had to be inventive”. Her approach is totally green and her clothing is all made in small factories in the UK. She finds it very sad that British people haven’t supported these and have effectively “killed off the tailoring industry” in this country.



Christa hardly ever travels, apart from “in her head and through books”. She enjoys undertaking projects in her local area and claims that where she lives in London E5 is “so ethnically mixed, it feels like you’re travelling all the time”. She enjoys meeting local people and hearing their stories and likes to visit London’s museums – especially the Maritime Museum. At a dinner party, she prefers to be amongst friends, though “it’s always exciting to sit next to an interesting stranger”. She’s not so sure about sitting next to someone whom she admires - she might feel either let down, or intimidated .. however, if Peter Cook or Gandhi were still alive, I get the impression she might make an exception.


The future for Christa is increasingly arty. She’s looking forward to creating more artistically inspired pieces at affordable prices – so watch this space.

We will, thanks Christa.